By Francis Njuguna
A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step goes one of the sayings of the wise. The same could be said of the Small Christian Communities(SCCs), a pastoral program of the Catholic Bishops in the Eastern African Region that officially started in 1976. This SCC key pastoral priority has continuously and notably made its impact on the Catholic Church’s pastoral mission in the AMECEA Region over these years.
As a result, SCCs has become synonymous with peace promotion and in a particular way with the annual Kenya Bishops’ Lenten Campaign messages as well as the preparations for the Kenya’s 12th General Elections to take place on August 8, 2017. This year’s 2017 Kenya Lenten Campaign message is based on the theme “Peaceful and Credible Elections: Leaders of Integrity.” The fourth week theme was specifically dedicated to “Elections.”
At a Training Course on Election Monitoring and Observation held on 20-21 March, 2017 at the Students Leadership Center (Ufungamano House), University of Nairobi, Kenya, the participants — 30 diocesan coordinators of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) –observed that the SCCs were well qualified as peace promoters for the country’s peaceful and credible elections. The two-day Training Course was jointly organized and facilitated by the AMECEA Justice, Peace and Caritas Coordinating Office and the Office of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) of the Catholic Bishops in Kenya.
“This is because SCCs are on the ground and very experienced in grassroots pastoral operations,” emphasized the Training Course participants as they wound up their two-day Training Course. SCCs can influence peace promotion during this year’s General Elections, the participants further stressed. Our hope, observed the participants, is that SCCs will be handy this time around to preach and promote civic education and peacebuilding during the country’s General Elections.
National Executive Secretary for CJPC, Ms Beatrice Odera thanked AMECEA for its readiness to share its election monitoring and observation experiences with the Catholic Church in Kenya. “This is sharing of available resources in the Catholic Church at its best,” she stressed. During the course, Antony Mbandi, the AMECEA Justice, Peace and Caritas Coordinator shared with the participants the AMECEA’s election monitoring and observation experiences in Zambia and Malawi. “These two case studies show how active and participatory the Catholic Church was during the general elections in these two AMECEA member countries — Zambia and Malawi,” he explained, while hoping that the Catholic Church in Kenya will exercise the same peace advocacy role during this country’s pending General Elections.
A recent study on the SCCs in the AMECEA Region by Father Joseph Healey, a Maryknoll missionary priest, MM and renowned SCCs promoter in the region shows that an estimated 45,000 SCCS are spread out in the Kenya’s 26 Catholic dioceses with the Machakos Diocese leading the way with over 5,000 SCCs. According to Father Healey the SCC pastoral model is a new way of being church today. More information can be found on the
AMECEA stands for the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa and comprises nine countries: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.